Registed Nurses' Association of Ontario

Publications & Resources

Misused words

Health care vs. health-care

When health care appears as a noun (a person, place or thing) in a sentence, it is spelled as two words, lower case, with no hyphen. For example: Sam received the best health care from his registered nurse.

When health care is used as an adjective (a word that describes a noun), it is hyphenated and lower case. For example: registered nurses are the largest group of professionals in the health-care system. In this case, "health-care" describes the word "system."

Another quick and easy way to remember this rule is if health care precedes another word (health-care professional, organization, team, budget) it should be hyphenated. The same rule applies for other words. For example: evidence-based practice, knowledge-based profession, three-day conference.

Practice vs. practise

The word practice is generally used as a noun. When used as a verb, it is spelled practise. For example: I've been practising as an emergency room nurse for 20 years. In my practice, I meet many clients who rely on food banks.

That vs. which

That* tends to restrict the reader's thought and direct it the way you want it to go. Which is non-restrictive and introduces additional information. For example: the lawnmower that is in the garage needs sharpening (meaning: we have more than one lawnmower. The one in the garage needs sharpening.) The lawnmower, which is in the garage, needs sharpening (meaning: our lawnmower needs sharpening.)

*Dropping "that" often makes for smoother reading, especially in shorter sentences. For example: She said (that) she wanted to be alone.
Only use it to avoid misleading the reader even momentarily. For example: Cam said that on May 1 he was in Halifax

Affect vs. effect

Generally, affect is the verb; effect is the noun. For example: the letter did not affect the outcome. The letter had a significant effect.
Affect = to have an effect on.
Effect = a result/outcome.

Over vs. more than

They aren't interchangeable. Over refers to spatial relationships. For example: the plane flew over the city. More than is used with figures. For example: more than 12,000 members signed RNAO's action alert.

Fewer vs. less

Fewer is used when discussing items you can count; less is used for things you cannot count. For example: fewer people, fewer dollars vs. less milk, less time. Less is also used with numbers when they are on their own and with expressions of measurement or time. For example: their marriage lasted less than two years.

"Our" spelling

Spell words such as colour, flavour, honour, neighbour, rumour, labour and humour with an "our." The "or" spelling comes from American English, but CP uses the "our" spelling because it is Canadian English spelling.